Articles Posted in Notes from the Attorneys

If you thought the CDO caused a real estate crash that could have been avoided with proper regulation, you are going to be pleased to know that the next example of why voters are sick and tired of Washington ineptness is upon us and it could cost us a bundle. The October 2013 Real Estate Crash may be delayed by delaying the implementation of the Biggert Waters Act of July 2013, revising the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”), but Congress will need to act quickly. National attention was focused on the problem with the poorly operated and under-funded NFIP, now part of FEMA, when Super Sandy hit New York City and New Jersey. Since then, the NFIP has been borrowing from the general budget to cover the cost of payments of flood insurance claims.
Although Sandy’s waters have retreated, the problem with the Biggert-Waters Act is that the intended remapping of flood zones has not occurred as required under the act and yet the act calls for an end to subsidized rates for property owners whose property is identified by FEMA as flood prone. For example, after Sandy, FEMA released new “preliminary” flood insurance maps for New York City, replacing “advisory” maps sent by FEMA immediately after Sandy. Using theoretical data, which is admittedly wrong in many instances, FEMA now shows a significant increase in the number of homes and businesses subject to flooding. For instance, in New York City, the new maps double the number of city structures in flood zones to more than 67,000 over the last map update in 2007, which was based on 1983 data.
Some will say this is only fair, those building in flood prone areas should simply know better. But the federal flood program facilitated lending and building in these areas through the use of the NFIP for years. Federally insured loans require flood insurance guaranteed by the federal government. And the insurance is completely at the risk of the federal government – private insurance companies have any risks from participating in the NFIP Write Your Own program.
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The deadline to file seafood compensation claims will expire January 20, 2013!

Section 5.11.9 of the Economic & Property Damages Settlement with BP mandates that all Seafood Program Compensation Claim Forms must be submitted within 30 days of the entry of the order and judgment approving the settlement by the District Court.

Because Judge Barbier approved the Economic & Property Damages Class Settlement on December 21, 2012, all Seafood Program Compensation Claims should be submitted to the Deepwater Horizon Court-Supervised Settlement Program by January 20, 2013.

For those of you unfamiliar with insurance-related appraisal process, as an alternative method of resolving insurance disputes, you should note that most insurance policies provide that after an insurance company has had the opportunity to adjust a claim, if there is disagreement, either side may request a form of arbitration called “appraisal.” The time to request the appraisal is not limited, in most instances, and has been condoned by the courts even after law suits are filed and discovery has begun. It is common for insurance companies to assign a favorite son as their appraiser and to invite the insured-plaintiff to appoint an appraiser. The two appraisers select an Umpire, who is asked to decide the case if the appraisers are unable to agree on the amount of damages.

One would think that the appraisal process eliminates the need for the law suit, however, most policies provide that even after the appraisal process is completed, the Umpire has ruled, the case may be litigated by the insurance company. It need only refuse coverage, or deny the claim, requiring litigation. Delays by the insurance company appraiser are common place in our experience, driving to the extreme the time and cost of the adjustment process. Further delays without repairs under the first party property and casualty policy work in Texas without the real prospect of penalties for late payment. Where the prospect of penalties was present in the law suit, the delays and abuses of appraisal are seldom considered by Texas courts to justify penalties for arbitrary and capricious refusal to pay, even where the Umpire rules that the damages are due and is evident that the insurance company had no legitimate basis to refuse to pay.

Of course, by its very nature, the appraisal process calls for an expedited alternative dispute resolution process, however, because it is not final, because it leaves to the insurance company the right to accept or reject the findings and there are not any penalties for arbitrary and capricious refusal to pay in Texas, the process operates to frustrate claimants and the lawyers hired to help prosecute claims for the insured. The insurance company right to reject the appraisal process after it is completed is just one of the several obstacles placed in the way of legitimate claims. Another is the assertion without basis by insurance companies in Texas that the appraisal process should be handled like “baseball arbitration,” where the Umpire is limited to accepting either the insurance appraisal or the claimant appraisal. The recent case of Providence Lloyds Ins. Co. v. Crystal City Ind. School Dist., 877 S.W. 872 (Tex App. San Antonio 1994) shows the claim of an insurance company to baseball arbitration. In that case the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling with the following ruling against baseball arbitration:

Valuation of community assets is determined as of time of trial on the merits of partition suit, as those assets can appreciate or depreciate in value. However, valuation of marital debt as of date of filing of divorce petition, and not as of date of trial on the merits of partition suit, was found proper, in Pitre v. Pitre, 501 So.2d 344 (La.App. 3 Cir.,1987).
If you hold an interest in any type of business partnership, the following ruling from the D’Spain case will impact the partitioning of your interests. Indeed, upon dissolution of community of acquets and gains in that case, the partner’s wife did not receive any interest in partnership, but was entitled only to one half of value of partner’s interest in partnership assets. D’Spain v. D’Spain, App. 5 Cir.1988, 527 So.2d 309. Here, proper timing, filings, and, potentially, the inclusion of an accounting expert or CPA will benefit your case. You will need an experienced attorney to ensure your business interests are protected.

Contact Thornhill Law Firm for advice and assistance in this important area of domestic/family law.

BP claims and claimants:

The trial against BP, Halliburton and Trans Ocean is set for trial January 14, 2013, to determine punitive damages owed under the maritime law. In a true limitaions action, the unresolved issues include claims among the defendants for which Judge Barbier will apply various laws, e.g., admiralty law and the Oil Field Pollution Act. The trial on punitive damages may enhance your claims under the pending settlement of economics and medicals claims. Settlement of your claims under the pending settlement will bar all future claims against BP and the long list of defendants who are beneficiaries of the transaction and compromise. For more information on the list ofclaims barred by the settlement or your rights in the pending multi-district litigation, contact Thornhill Law Firm.

International Paper and Temple-Inland: Bogalusa paper mill suits filed:

In Louisiana, Succession is the transmission of the estate of a deceased person to his successors. La. C.C. art. 871. The successors thus have the right to take possession of the estate of the deceased after complying with applicable provisions of law. Succession occurs at the death of a person. La. C.C. art. 934. There are two kinds of successions: Testate and Intestate. When this transmission is done by operation of law, it is called intestate succession. When it is done through the provisions of a will (also called a testament), it is called testate succession. La. C.C. arts. 873-875. The estate of a deceased person means the property, rights and obligations that a person leaves after his death, whether the property exceeds the charges or the charges exceed the property, or whether he has only left charges without any property. The estate includes not only the rights and obligations of the deceased as they exist at the time of death, but all that has accrued thereto since death and the new charges to which it becomes subject. The estate in Louisiana, however, has no separate legal existence like a corporation or partnership does. In re Succession of Moore, No. 97-1668 (La.App. 4th Cir. 1998), 737 So.2d 749. The successors to a deceased person’s estate are called heirs when there is intestate succession and legatees when there is testate succession. La. C.C. art. 876. The right to take possession of property, whether the person receiving the property is an heir or a legatee, does not arise automatically. In Louisiana, the heirs or legatees must comply with certain provisions of the law. Usufruct is the right to use property during the existence of the usufruct period to the exclusion of the owners of the property. La C.C. arts. 535, 539. In Louisiana, it is actually a limitation on the right of ownership, where the right to use the property is granted to a person different than the owner. The owner of property subject to a usufruct is called the naked owner. Forced heirs are descendants of the first degree who, at the time of the death of the decedent, are twenty-three years of age or younger or descendants of the first degree of any age, who, because of mental incapacity or physical infirmity, are permanently incapable of taking care of their person or administering their estates at the time of the death of the decedent. A person is twenty-three years of age or younger until he/she attains the age of twenty-four years. The existence of forced heirs is irrelevant if there is no testament left by the decedent.

Troubles with potential foreclosure on your home? There are defenses and remedies in the law that may assist you (see below). Thornhill Law Firm will provide the legal assistance to identify and develop your defenses to foreclosure. Call Mitch if you have questions: 985-641-5010, toll free: (800)-989-2707.

LSA-CCP art. 2751, et seq. Grounds for arresting seizure and sale; damages.

The defendant in the executory proceeding may arrest the seizure and sale of the property by injunction when the debt secured by the security interest, mortgage, or privilege is extinguished, or is legally unenforceable, or if the procedure required by law for an executory proceeding has not been followed.

BP economics and medical claim? The time is perfect to engage counsel to file your claim for business losses and medical claims. Thornhill Law Firm will provide the required experts and legal assistance to develop the claims against BP, all in accordance with the expected settlement by the PSC with BP. Call Tom if you have questions: 985-641-5010, toll Free: (800)-989-2707.

Chinese drywall in your house or building? It is not too late to file a claim. The settlement with Knauff is not final and a bar date has not been issued. Claims against other manufacturers are also still pending.

So, it is not too late for filing claims. Thornhill Law Firm is ready to send experts to test, evaluated and develop your claim for Chinese drywall damages by filing through the lawyers at Thornhill Law Firm. Call Emily if you have questions: 985-641-5010, toll Free: (800)-989-2707.